UNLV junior center Birch declares for NBA Draft

After losing Roscoe Smith to the NBA and Bryce Dejean-Jones to transfer, UNLV could hardly afford any more personnel losses in the frontcourt.

But on Thursday, the Runnin' Rebels got some more bad news.

Junior center Khem Birch is heading to the NBA.

"I loved playing here at UNLV for Coach Rice and with my teammates," Birch said in a statement. “After talking at length with my family, I have decided to pursue my professional career. It was a tough decision, one that I thought about for a very long time. I will finish my classes this semester and I will be a Runnin’ Rebel for life."

Birch is a former Pittsburgh transfer who played at UNLV for two seasons. He was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in both years.

This past season, Birch averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks.

"I loved coaching Khem for the last two years," coach Dave Rice said. “He is a hard worker and a gifted player. We appreciate all of his contributions to UNLV and support him 100 percent in this decision. We wish him great success as a professional."

Without Birch and Smith, UNLV is short on bodies up front. The Runnin' Rebels will have to rely heavily on incoming freshman Goodluck Okonoboh and rising sophomore Christian Wood. Incoming freshman Dwayne Morgan was also a five-star prospect, but he's more of a small forward.

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